Saturday, September 18, 2010

Marriage Under Suspicion

After five years of marriage, Kate Lassiter returns home from a business trip to find an anonymous letter waiting for. It simply reads, "Your husband is in love with another woman." Shocked, Kate finds an empty bottle of champagne with two glasses; apparently her husband, Ryan, has been celebrating with someone in her absence. Later, she overhears him talking on a phone assuring someone he addresses as "sweetheart" that his wife doesn't know anything yet, and that everything will be all right. He tells Kate that he is meeting his editor for lunch, but lies about the restaurant they are going to, and doesn't bother to correct her misconception that his editor is a man (when in fact he has a new editor who happens to be a sexy young woman). And so it continues...

This was really, really stupid. I mean, really, really, REALLY stupid. It started off all right, with Kate trying to find out the truth. She keeps reaching out to her husband, who in turn keeps rejecting her and lying to her. Everything points towards him having an affair with her best friend, but of course the reader knows it will all turn out to be a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING and Kate and Ryan will live happily ever after. Well, it turns out that the mysterious letter was actually written by Ryan. Apparently he was worried about the state of their marriage, so naturally instead of trying to talk to his wife, he decided that making her think he was cheating on her was the smart thing to do. He keeps rejecting her because, well, he's obviously an idiot. Apparently he decided a time of celibacy would be good for them to work out their differences. Sure, if both parties know what's going on and actually communicate. How refusing to spend any time with his wife was going to save their marriage, I have no idea. Finally he succumbs to his lust and they spend a passionate night together. Ryan is worried that he and Kate only seem to connect on a physical level, so instead of trying to talk to her (gee, you think the reason you don't connect outside of bed is because you refuse to talk to her?) he mocks her for making herself so sexually available to him, and tells her that the sex didn't mean anything. Finally, he goes off on a business trip, turning down Kate when she offers to go with him. She calls his hotel after he leaves, only to discover that he is not due there for another day, and that he has booked into a suite for himself and his "wife". It all finally comes to a head when Kate goes there in a rage, ready to confront her lying, cheating husband and his woman. No other woman can be found, and the truth comes out. For some reason Kate is perfectly happy with all of Ryan's excuses. The champagne in their apartment is never explained, by the way. Personally, I don't see much hope for their future. For all Kate knows, Ryan could very well have been cheating on her all along. She is just so relieved when he claims to love her, that she swallows all his excuses. I find it hard to stomach that after five years of marriage, Ryan's method of conflict resolution is lying to, rejecting, and hurting his wife, rather than open and honest communication. I wouldn't want to stay with a man like this. At the very least, Kate and Ryan should probably get some marriage counselling.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Bride Said No

This was one of the worst books I have ever read. I couldn't keep up with the heroine's constantly changing motives and bizarre thought processes.

The day before her wedding to Sean Hinton, Miranda Boston overhears her father's secretary explaining to someone that Sean is only marrying her for her father's company. Apparently her Sean and her father made an arrangement before Sean proposed to her. Shattered by the thought that the marriage is based on money and ambition rather than love, Miranda runs away leaving a note to say she can't go through with the wedding. Naturally, confronting her father or her fiancé is out of the question. She spends the night with an old friend, Carol, who is the sole voice of sensible reasoning in the whole book. She advises Miranda not to pay attention to malicious gossip, but rather to question why she was so willing to believe her father's secretary. Did Miranda already have doubts about Sean? She should speak to Sean and work things out. Unfortunately, Miranda doesn't follow Carol's advice, and Carol is never heard from again. Sean shows up in the morning to drag Miranda back for the wedding, ranting about how inconsiderate she has been. Miranda decides that she must never let him or her father know about the conversation she overheard, and simply tells Sean that she can't marry him. He jumps to the conclusion that she is indifferent to him and proves her wrong by kissing her. Please note, at no point did Miranda actually say she wasn't attracted to him, she just said she was worried that he may be marrying her for her father's money. Anyway, Sean tells her that cancelling the wedding at this late date would be an administrative nightmare, what with having to return presents and so on. Miranda, bright spark that she is, agrees with him and "realises" it's too late to do anything but go ahead with the wedding. She then does what any self-respecting heroine would, and waits until after the vows are said and the certificate signed, before informing her new husband that she won't have sex with him.

Sigh. It just gets worse after this...

Sean and Miranda jet off on their "no-sex" honeymoon. By this stage, Sean is convinced that Miranda must have found some other hot young stud, because that's the only reason she wouldn't want to get married to him. As for Miranda, she begins to realise that Sean was never very passionate during their six month courtship, which must prove that he never loved her after all. She decides that the only way to get Sean is to play hard to get. It's not clear why she suddenly decides this. She goes from being broken hearted and betrayed to wanting to be a femme fatale.

Anyway, things get ever more convoluted with no one really talking to each other. Sean finally admits that he was never in love with Miranda, but challenges her assertion that he doesn't love her by telling her that he is fond of her. She decides that he really does love her, and is also in love with her after all, so they can have sex and live happily ever after.

I had no idea what was going on in this book. Miranda spends a lot of time in her head. There seems to be a lot of empty space there so I guess it's nice and roomy. At one point, Miranda thinks to herself,
"What was the point in talking yet, anyway? They weren't using the same language. Sean wouldn't understand the confused tangle of motives making her act the way she was and she couldn't tell him how simple it could all be if he really felt anything for her."
Well, Sean isn't the only one who wouldn't understand. I couldn't even understand her sense of betrayal over Sean's feelings. It is clear that Sean never lied to her, either by pretending to or telling her that he loved her. Miranda seems to have jumped to that conclusion all on he suggested they get married.

Ugh. I think I've ranted about this book enough. Miranda was just so incredibly irritating. Take my word for it, leave this one alone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Heir for the Millionaire: The Greek and the Single Mom

After being Xander Anaketos' undemanding mistress for nearly a year, Clare finds herself replaced. Unbeknownst to Xander, Clare is pregnant. Four years later they bump into each other and Xander finds out about his 3 year old son. He will do anything it takes to have him.

This was awful, simply awful. The plot was common enough:

  1. Rich greek who changes mistresses like clothes.
  2. Sweet girl who goes against all her common sense and becomes said Greek's mistress because she's in love with him. Somehow she lasts longer than any of his previous women.
  3. Hero dumps heroine before she tells him that she is pregnant, so she decides to engage in the "Secret Baby" plot and live in honourable poverty.
  4. Years (and countless women) later, hero discovers secret baby and tries to force heroine to marry him.
  5. Heroine refuses marriage (this part is rare!) so hero has unprotected sex with heroine to get her pregnant again.
  6. They all live happily ever after.
Even trite plots like this can be salvaged, but there was absolutely nothing likeable about Xander. In Clare's own words,
"How can I love a man who threw me out like rubbish, who packed me off with a diamond necklace, who last night used me for sex because I was convenient and on hand...?
How can I love a man like that? A man without feelings, without conscience, without remorse, or the slightest acknowledgement that he was so coldly callous to me?
I musn't love a man love a man like that! It debases me to do so."
Couldn't agree more. It seems that the only reason Clare is in love with Xander is that he's a stud. I read this story with gritted teeth. Clare was just so unbelievably pathetic. And what can I say about Xander's "brilliant" plot to get her pregnant? He doesn't know her menstrual cycle, doesn't know whether she's on the pill or not, yet thinks that having unprotected sex with her once will be enough to see the deed done.

Ugh. Don't bother reading this one. I feel dumber for having done so.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Italian Tycoon's Bride

Maisie Burns has just been dumped by her fiancé when she meets Blaine Morosini, the uncle of one of her best friends. He hires her to go to Italy with him to work for his parents for a few months. Their mutual attraction grows over time, but Blaine doesn't want a long-term relationship with anyone. Is Maisie setting herself up to get dumped again?

Maisie is basically a nice, ordinary, girl. The type of girl who could only capture the attention of a hot Italian stud in a romance novel, but I guess that's why we read these books. As for Blaine, he was caught in a bad marriage with an unstable wife who didn't like sex and eventually died of leukaemia. He took to his freedom like a duck to water, by becoming a consummate playboy with never-ending one night stands. He knows from the beginning that Maisie will not indulge in casual sex, but can't deny his attraction to her. Finally, he finds her a permanent job and offers to help her find an apartment so that she can remain in Italy and they can see each other as much as they want for "as long as it lasts". Maisie turns him down flat. I cheered. Finally! A heroine who isn't ruled by her hormones, and actually has enough self-respect to turn a good looking guy down. She returns to England, he eventually follows her there to propose to her, and they live happily ever after.

This was pretty much the epitome of dime-store paperback romance. The sweet, plain, ordinary girl meets the hot studly Italian playboy. They fall in love at first sight and he gives up his playboy ways to marry her. Sweet and totally unrealistic. If you like romances that provide escapism and don't make you think, this one's for you.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

His marriage ultimatum

Like so many books in the Harlequin Presents line, the title of this one is completely misleading. It gives the impression that this will be some sort of "Blackmailed into marriage" plot, but it isn't. Carter Blake meets Liberty Fox one day and asks her out. They have a nice relationship that progresses along fairly normal lines, albeit at an accelerated rate. These are small books, so I suppose we don't have time for a normal courtship. Liberty has some serious hang-ups regarding marriage and children, and this is where the "ultimatum" comes in eventually. Carter and Liberty are happy to admit they love each other, but Liberty does not want to commit herself to marriage, preferring instead for them to live together. Carter tells her that he won't have sex with her until they are married.

This was a nice, fairly simple romance. Liberty's hang-ups became very frustrating and annoying, mainly because her reasons for them seem pretty unreasonable to me. Her mother has spent her life going from rich husband to richer husband, and is now on husband number six. Although I can see this affecting Liberty, the degree of angst it causes her is unbelievable. I kept expecting Carter to send her off to therapy. Anyway, they sort themselves out in the end, get married and finally have sex. An enjoyable, if unexciting, read.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kept by her Greek boss

Katie Connor decides to end her affair with her boss Alexi Demetri. She knows that there is no future in it and wants to have a real and meaningful relationship with someone. She breaks up with him and finds a new job a month later, only to discover that her new boss is none other that Alexi, who has bought over her new company. Then she discovers that she is pregnant. Since his divorce years ago, Alexi has sworn that he will never love anyone again, but when he finds out that Katie is expecting her child, her forces her to marry him.

It was nice to see a heroine working in a high powered job (as opposed to being a secretary or personal assistant). Unfortunately it was not quite believable that a 24 year old would hold the position that Katie does. Someone does comment on her age, and I guess that's supposed to make it all right, but it really didn't ring true. Putting that aside, I started off liking Katie but that didn't last long. She let herself get into a purely physical relationship with Alexi even though it went against her personal beliefs. By the time the story starts, she has realised that she  can't continue like this and chooses to get out. I thought I was finally seeing a heroine with some self respect. Unfortunately, as soon as Alexi finds out about her pregnancy, she lets him walk all over her. He threatens to sue for custody of their child if she doesn't marry him. When she tentatively agrees to the marriage and tries to gain some control by insisting on a long engagement, he railroads her again by making her marry him immediately. The whole time my mind kept screaming "Prenup!". I can't believe all these "Blackmailed into marriage" and "Marriage of convenience" plots where the heroine doesn't insist on a prenuptial agreement, especially in this case where custody of a child is at stake. Katie is terrified of losing custody of her unborn child, yet it never occurs to her that once she marries Alexi, if he divorces her she will almost certainly lose custody. Instead, Alexi whips out his prenup agreement and she doesn't even bother reading it properly. They get married with Katie knowing she loves him but will never be loved in return. I can deal with Alexi not loving Katie, but some basic respect would have been nice. On their wedding night Katie asks if Alexi missed her after they broke up, to which he replies, "You know I've missed you.  You're great in bed, Katie." Yuck, yuck, yuck.  It's excused by the fact that Alexi is fighting against his feelings for Katie, and is thus deliberately rude. Personally, I cannot abide heroes treating heroines like this, and I hate heroines that allow it. Katie is hurt by it, but then immediately has sex with Alexi again. Sigh. Eventually, Alexi realises that Katie isn't happy being married to him and things culminate when Katie has a miscarriage scare. This being a category romance, the baby is not lost, but it forces Alexi to admit that he loves Katie and doesn't want to lose her even if they lose the baby.

I suppose in the end I did enjoy this book, but the miscarriage scare was too convenient. I would have found it far more believable is Katie had actually had a miscarriage rather than just thinking there was a problem. This book was pretty standard fare. Arrogant jerk of a hero finally succumbs to love. It wasn't bad, but there was really nothing special here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Salvatore Marriage

Two years ago, Luca Salvatore ended his engagement to Shannon Gilbraith after catching her cheating on him. They are reunited after his brother and her sister (who have been married for six years) die tragically, leaving a new-born daughter behind.

Since this is a category romance, it is clear from the start that Shannon was not unfaithful to Luca two years ago, but was wrongfully accused. It turns out that Luca came home unexpectedly one day to find Shannon cleaning up the bedroom, with the bed unmade, a pair of men's boxer shorts on the floor, and a packet of condoms on the table. He came to the obvious conclusion; unfortunately for Shannon, it was actually her sister who was guilty but Luca would not believe her. This whole scenario was pretty tacky and unbelievable... What kind of woman conducts an affair in her sister's home, and not only that but in her sister's bed? Ever heard of hotels? Anyway, I thought it was excusable for Luca to think what he did, but his pride caused him to completely cut Shannon out of his life without allowing her to tell her side of the story at all. In fact, he admits to himself that he regretted the fact that they were only engaged and not married, because his pride would have allowed him to try and reconcile with her if they had already been married. Not very admirable. As for Shannon, it's understandable that after a while she gave up trying to convince Luca of her innocence. He believes unequivocally that she was cheating on him and would not even entertain the possibility that her sister would cheat on his brother.

Anyway, after Luca and Shannon find themselves joint guardians of their baby niece, they agree to marry each other without actually resolving any of their past. Shannon agrees to the marriage on the priviso that Luca doesn't bring up the past. I found this pretty fatalistic. Does not mentioning it make it all right? Luca eventually discovers the truth that it was Shannon's sister who was guilty, and that his brother also knew about it and never told him. Finally everything comes out, Luca and Shannon forgive each other and everyone is happy. Everyone apart from me. Shannon seems to think that Luca's willingness to marry her means that he has forgiven her; if he has forgiven her for cheating on him, then he must love her. That reasoning would be fine except for the fact that he is marrying her for the sake of their niece, and not because he loves her. Luca's lack of trust in Shannon is never really addressed. Luca's family is another loose end. They all hate Shannon for being unfaithful to him. Looks like Shannon just has to continue living with their condemnation. Luca's brother and Shannon's sister were willing to let Luca believe Shannon cheated on him rather than tell him the truth; since they are dead, this can't really be resolved, but I still found it hard to stomach.

Overall this wasn't a bad book, but I was left feeling dissatisfied. I guess the whole conflict in the first place is so sordid and hard to stomach that I needed a more complete resolution. The guilty parties didn't really suffer. Luca himself was forgiven far too easily. Shannon just seemed to get short-changed and I don't think she deserved that.